Konsthallen / Hamnmagasinet Varberg
18 April–17 May 2009
In the centuries old conception of the transformation, gothic horror romanticism (think Frankenstein) meets modern gene technology. The notions of the alternated nature includes both science and imagination, both popular culture and philosophy. Helena Mutanen has her starting point in nature, in her materials and forms, but transforms it to art. There is nothing unusual about that. The idea itself of art is precisely creative proficiency, that is to say, the transforming or refining of nature through skill and modifying techniques. But here we can also detect a strong element of the history of ideas: the notion that the monstrous is a warning to mankind to refrain from interfering or manipulating God’s creation, and above all, to refrain from challenging death.
Helena Mutanen’s objects are reminiscent of a broad range of sources from the memento mori art of the Middle Ages and the Baroque period, to the contemporary death-flirting subcultures such as Goth, Punk and Emo. It is no coincidence that Mutanen has been influenced by David Cronenberg. The same transformations from machine to man, and the technological to the organic are present in his films as well. In the installation presented at Konsthallen Hamnmagasinet, entitled White Remains, the tree trunks painted in white can resemble bones. The textile larvae can naturally allude to corpse maggots, but the piece also offers broader, more complex associative paths. Here we encounter both a direct experience as well as something to be processed over time in an afterthought. Everything reminiscent of death is reminiscent of life as well, and acts as a reminder for us to value life as it is so transient.
Heritage and environment together dictate how we are formed, and it is precisely this “together” aspect that Mutanen conveys with her hybrid creations. Brain folds presented as wall medallions in path-like arrangements, as though someone has left a sign either offering direction or warning us. A series of keys coiled like a DNA-spiral or deformed spine offers the viewer a similar sign to interpret. DNA is the code for life, the key to identity, if you will, but constitutes at the same time the changeable core of evolution: it is through genetic changes that something new can arise. The works constitute a form of linguistics and concrete material that interact resulting in a truly singular expression. Everywhere crossbreeds between nature and biotechnical variations appear. The works are like objects in a curiosity cabinet but with an additional aspect of black humour to them that especially appeals to a young audience. Mutanen offers her art a personal context that highlights an outlook on life as well as a personal history: the dual identity of the artist as both Swedish and Finnish, and the notion of one’s origins as something changeable and constantly questioned.
Helena Mutanen received her artistic education at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, and has exhibited in numerous galleries throughout Sweden.